10 Ways to Make this a Healthier (and Happier) Holiday Season

By: Katie Richard, MA, BSN, RN, Director of Sports & Wellness

Instead of plunging into the usual hustle and bustle that typifies the holiday season, why not start a new tradition this year? Focus on self-care and your own well-being.

A self-care plan can reduce stress, anxiety and depression while boosting your energy, mood and physical health. It might also help alleviate some of the guilt that routinely sets in around January 2 when you get on the scales or receive the credit card bill.

Here are 10 suggestions for a holiday self-care and wellness regimen:

1. Pamper yourself. After two years of pandemic worries and disruptions, everyone—men and women alike—deserves pampering. If you can, book an hour or day at a spa for massages, facials, manis and pedis, reflexology and detoxifying body wraps. Or keep it simple with a candle-lit, soothing bubble bath at home. Just take a some time to relax.

2.Exercise regularly. The advantages of exercising at any age outweigh any excuses for not. Exercise lowers blood pressure, improves heart health, reduces risk of stroke and helps weight loss. Few remedies compare to a walking meditation for clearing your mind. If you already have a regular routine, add something new during the holidays—yoga, Pilates, kayaking or hiking.

3. Get some sleep. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends 7-8 hours of sleep each night for adults. To aid your sleep ritual:

  • Maintain a comfortable sleeping environment with no distracting lights and noises; keep the room temperature around 68–70 degrees
  • Turn off all devices, change into pajamas and brush your teeth at least 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime
  • Wind down by reading a book or listening to a meditation
  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule; try going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, even on weekends
  • Avoid exercising for 2-3 hours before bedtime
  • Avoid large meals, alcohol and caffeine late at night

4. Wisely portion food and drink. This may be the most difficult self-care tip to follow since holiday cheer is usually used as an excuse to overindulge. The best way to stay true to the best you is limiting your consumption of pleasure foods, especially sweets, and drinks. Try taking just three to five “polite” bites and sips.

While it's commonly believed that Americans gain an average five-to-eight pounds from Thanksgiving through New Year's Day, NIH studies show the average holiday weight gain to be only about one pound.

However, any amount of weight loss can be challenging, especially after age 50. As weight increases, so do health conditions that can affect your stamina, mobility and overall wellness.

5. Stay positive. Stop worrying. Difficult as it may be to accept, there's only so much you can control. But, you can control how you welcome the day and bid good night. Despite all that may be going on, concentrate on positive thoughts when you first awake and reflect on the things you're grateful for at the end of the day. Stay in the Zen zone on nature walks, by journaling or listening to music that makes you feel good. Schedule time with friends and or just play on your own. Gaze up at the night sky.

6. Clear away clutter. While it may seem like work, set aside time at the start of the holiday season to organize your closets, the garage or kids' rooms. Clutter tends to induce anxiety. If the task at hand seems overwhelming, start in a small space where your efforts will show big results. You will feel you have accomplished a lot and may be motivated to do more.

7. Make a plan. Set aside specific days for decorating, shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan menus and shopping lists ahead of time to avoid last-minute runs to the grocery store. Enlist help for party prep, clean-up duties, gift wrapping and other holiday commitments. Don’t be afraid to say no to requests that don’t fit your planned schedule.

8. Set a budget. To prevent stress over money, plan ahead and review your finances. Set a realistic budget for gifts that doesn't impact your ability to pay bills nor result in excessive credit card debt. Then stick to the budget. Instead of over extending on gift giving, donate to charities in honor of family and friends.

9. Seek professional help if needed. Despite best efforts, during the holidays you may find yourself feeling sad or anxious, suffering physical ailments, unable to sleep, or irritable and moody. If you're having a difficult time, speak with your doctor or a mental health professional. They can help you with coping skills to get through the holiday season with a bit of cheer.

10. Stay vigilant and vaccinate. Masking mandates may have ended, but COVID-19 remains with us. The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones during the holidays is by staying up to date on vaccinations. The CDC recommends updated (bivalent) boosters for everyone 5 years and older.

For more information on health and wellness services, contact Thibodaux Regional Wellness Education Center, 985.493.4765.